With over 85 inches of rain annually, it’s no wonder Great Smoky Mountains National Park is home to more than 2,000 miles of streams and rivers, including over 100 prominent waterfalls.
No matter what time of year you visit, these amazing waterfall hikes will elevate your already incredible Great Smoky Mountains experience!
Meigs Falls & The Sinks
You don’t need to go far to experience gorgeous waterfalls in this national park. Meigs Falls can be seen just off Little River Road between Townsend and the Sugarlands Visitor Center. If you want to see the falls up close, a hike to the top of the falls is available as well. The Sinks, small but very powerful falls, are nearby and can be seen from the parking lot of the Meigs Falls Trail, but also can be experienced closer with a short walk down to the large pool.
Family-Friendly Waterfall Hikes
If you’re ready to work up a sweat to see more waterfalls, take the group out hiking to some of these waterfalls! Be wary that summertime on the trails can get crowded, so plan to head out early and beat the heat and other tourists.
Big Creek/Mouse Creek Falls
This two-mile trail leads along the beautiful emerald-green creek to the 45-foot Mouse Creek Falls off the Big Creek Trail. Following along a retired railroad, this trail is fairly smooth and easy with only a 605-foot elevation climb.
One of the most popular trails among the wide array of Great Smoky Mountains hiking, the Laurel Falls path was paved years ago after its popularity began to erode the fresh trail. Being close to Gatlinburg and coming in at just over two miles, this is a perfect stroll for adventurers of all ages and boasts a breathtaking 80-foot waterfall just over one mile in.
Claiming the name of the only walk-behind waterfall in the Smokies, Grotto Falls is easy enough for most youngsters, but still a good workout. Strap on hiking boots and make your way down the root-covered trail just over one mile to the 25-foot waterfall. Ample shade from the hemlock trees and cool splashes from the falls create the perfect picnic setting.
Deep Creek Trail
Deep Creek Trail can easily be split into three hikes, each fairly short and simple, but if you want to see all three waterfalls on the trail, you’ll spend a few hours and hike about four and a half miles total. Toms Branch Falls is only three-tenths of a mile from the parking lot, great for those wanting instant gratification. Continue another two miles to see Indian Creek Falls, and as you make your way back around the loop to the parking lot, a small trail leads off to the 80-foot Juney Whank Falls.
Moderate Waterfall Hikes
Even though this majestic waterfall peaks at just 20 feet, it’s easily one of the most admired Great Smoky Mountains hiking trails: it has the largest volume of water gushing over its mossy rocks than any other in the park. This trail is about five miles roundtrip and climbs 675 feet, so plan for at least a few hours to hike there, enjoy the majestic falls, and make your way back.
At about five-and-a-half miles roundtrip, this beautiful trail leads to a crashing 80-foot waterfall that creates a picturesque mist rainbow. Such a stunning sight comes at a cost with 1,685 feet elevation gain, so plan for around four hours total.
Hen Wallow Falls
One of the tallest falls in the Smoky Mountains, this 90-foot waterfall is unlike any other. The creek above is a narrow two feet as it cascades over the side and fans out to 20 feet. With such a wide spray, the waterfall can be prone to freezing over in the winter, creating an enchanting ice column you won’t want to miss. Give yourself a few hours to hike, as the trail is about four-and-a-half miles roundtrip and gains 900 feet.
If you’re looking for a real challenge, hikers will love the trail to Ramsey Cascades, the tallest waterfall in the park at 100 feet. This fun trail keeps you guessing with several steep rock climbs, a narrow footbridge 20 feet above the creek, and plenty of old growth like the tallest black cherry in the park, second-tallest white oak in the park, and the third-tallest red maple in the park. But with over 2,000 feet elevation gain along the eight-mile trail, make sure you’re up for this moderately strenuous hike before attempting.
Between waterfalls, wildflowers, and wildlife, Great Smoky Mountains National Park hiking trails will easily become a favorite place for outdoor enthusiasts. And don’t forget a camera to capture the natural beauty you’re about to experience!
Article written by Paige Kenyon
Featured photo courtesy of Ken Rowland
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